Tag Archives: education

The Gates to New Life

VANCOUVER – Bill and Melinda Gates, the richest couple in the world, long ago decided to devote the bulk of their wealth to charitable causes, reducing child poverty and illness in the developing world, and improving education in the United States.

But in a candid interview with Chris Anderson, the curator of the TED conference in Vancouver, they acknowledged their great wealth hasn’t saved them from making costly mistakes.

They cited two examples Tuesday night in a TED talk that was broadcast live, saying the mistakes have served to help them realize their charitable goals need to be better researched and activated.

The evening talk was one of the highlights of the week-long TED event, a popular worldwide conference of thinkers and doers which is making its debut in Vancouver on its 30th anniversary.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spends $1 billion a year on improving access to education, and developed a model for small, intimate school settings. But Melinda Gates said that hasn’t always worked.

“I would say is that an early lesson out of this was that we thought these small schools were the answer,” she said. “Small schools definitely help. They bring down the dropout rate, they have less violence and crime.

“But the thing that we learned, and what turned out to be the fundamental key is a great teacher in front of the classroom,” she continued. “If you don’t have an effective teacher in the front of the classroom, I don’t care how big or small that school is. You are not going to change the trajectory of whether that school will be ready for college.”

Bill Gates said he wasted more than $60 million on a dream to eradicate Leishmaniasis in India, a potentially fatal disease that is transmitted by sand flies.

“We were very naive about a drug for a disease in India called Leishmaniasis. I thought once we got this drug we could just go wipe out this disease,” he said.

“Well, it turns out it took an injection every day for 10 days, and it took three more years to get it, and then there was no way it was going to get out there. You can say we wasted five years and about $60 million on a path that had very modest benefits when we got there.”

Melinda Gates also talked about the personal wrestle she had as a Roman Catholic over her decision to help fund contraceptives for women in developing countries.

Condoms may be useful for stopping transmittable diseases, but women can’t convince their husbands to use them for planning families, she said.

“Women will tell you I can’t negotiate condoms with my husband. I am either suggesting he has AIDS or I have AIDS,” she said.

“We have backed away from contraceptives as a global community. We knew that 210 million women were saying they wanted access to contraceptives. And we weren’t providing them because of the political controversy in our country,” Melinda Gates said.

“And to me, that was just a crime. I kept looking around trying to find the person who would get this back on the global stage and I finally realized I had to do it. And even though I am Catholic I believe in contraceptives, just like the majority of Catholic women in the United States who report using contraceptives, and I shouldn’t let that controversy be the thing that holds us back.”

As a result, she was able to raise $2.6 billion to help provide contraceptives for women in developing nations.

The Gateses have pledged to donate 95 per cent of their wealth to their foundation. In 2006 their friend Warren Buffett, the fourth-richest person in the world, pledged 80 per cent of his wealth to the foundation.

The two philanthropic contributions helped spark the Giving Pledge campaign, a program the Gateses and Buffett have developed to convince other wealthy people to donate large portions of their assets. Bill Gates said that so far about 120 people have made that pledge.

The Gateses said they were stunned when Buffett came to them and offered his money.

“He was going to have his wife Susie give it all away. Tragically she passed away before he did. And he’s big on delegation,” said Bill Gates.

“If he’s got somebody who’s doing something well and is willing to do something at no charge, maybe that’s okay,” he said to laughs from the audience.

“We were stunned; we had never expected it. It has allowed us to increase our ambition and what the foundation can do quite dramatically. I mean half the resources we have come from Warren’s mind-blowing generosity.”

The Gateses also answered a question many in the audience wanted to know; would their three children become instant billionaires by inheritance?

“No they won’t have anything like that,” Bill Gates said. “They need to have a sense that their own work is meaningful and important.”


© Copyright (c) Vancouver Sun

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Harris Rosen

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November 17, 2013 · 07:31

Religion in Scottish Schools. (From The Scotsman)

“UNDEMOCRATIC, unelected, unscientific and self-serving” church leaders should not have the legal right to make decisions on school education, according to cross-party politicians and secular groups.

Churches hold the balance of power in nearly two thirds of council education committees due to legislation which compels councils to appoint three religious representatives, the secular coalition said.

The Edinburgh Secular Society (ESS) has lodged a petition to repeal the law, backed by The National Secular Society, Humanist Society Scotland and University of Edinburgh Humanist Society with the support of Green MSP Patrick Harvie and SNP councillor Sandy Howat.

Mr Harvie is particularly concerned about the promotion of creationism in schools, while Mr Howat said the churches’ right to unelected representation on boards is “undemocratic and untenable”.

But Father Tom Boyle, assistant general secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland for the Catholic Church, who also sits on East Renfrewshire’s education committee, dismissed the petition as an attempt to “remove any influence of religion from public life”.

The ESS petition calls for a repeal of section 124 of the Local Government Act, which ensures religious representation on boards, following recent census results which show that nearly half of Scots profess no religious beliefs.

Colin Emerson, ESS vice-chair, said: “To afford a particular section of society a privileged position within the decision making process based solely on their particular and personal religious beliefs is profoundly and inherently undemocratic, unfair and discriminatory.”

Mr Harvie, MSP for Glasgow, said: “I’m particularly concerned at the involvement of people who would promote utterly unscientific notions like creationism, pushing this absurd ideology at children is the very opposite of education.”

Mr Howat, an elected member of Edinburgh Council’s education, children and families committee, said: “Unelected, unaccountable and I would suggest untenable.

“Undemocratic influence over public education is fundamentally at odds with the principles of respect, equality and shared freedoms.

“All contributions to committee deliberations should be welcomed, yet continued undemocratic privilege of the few over the many is an outdated tradition we should remove. As we look to create a fairer Scotland, we need to ask ourselves what this ‘privilege’ says about our values .”

However Fr Boyle said: “This betrays their ignorance of schools in Scotland, which had their origins in the churches before they were transferred into the state system, and that’s why we take an interest in them, because they belonged to us.

“As well as that, the Catholic Church is one of the largest educators in the world, so we have a certain expertise.

“It’s the ongoing campaign to remove any influence of religion from public life in our country.”

A Church of Scotland spokesperson said: “The somewhat hysterical language used by the secularist groups suggests aggression to cover for a weak argument.

“The contribution of religious representatives in being independent, rooted in communities and often with a great deal of experience in education, is greatly valued by councils across the country.

“And this attack on their personal integrity by the secularists is extraordinary and really quite sad.”

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American Jewry


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Three Ways to Save American Jewry From Extinction
Rabbi Shmuley BoteachOct 04, 2013
By now you’ve heard about the Pew Research poll, published this week, that concludes that American Jewry is on its way to oblivion. No need to wait for Hassan Rouhani of Iran to drop a bomb on us. We’re doing an incredibly fine job of destroying ourselves, thank you very much.

What all this shows is that what my friend mega-philanthropist Michael Steinhardt and I have been saying for years is unfortunately correct. Despite the untold billions that have been sunk into Jewish communal outreach for the last half century, it has barely made a dent in the rate of assimilation.

Here are three ways to give mouth-to-mouth to our dying community.

1. Stop creating a divide between the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds.

Today’s model of outreach is fatally flawed seeing as it necessarily forces a choice on non-affiliated Jews to choose between the Jewish and mainstream worlds. So, a student at University who hangs out with his non-Jewish friends is encouraged to stop going only to mainstream University events and come instead to Hillel or Chabad. I’m not knocking that. We need Jewish organizations that invite Jews in to classes, religious services, lectures, social events, and debates. But far more effective is not forcing the choice on them in the first place. Bring Judaism instead to where they are at. On campus, do colossal events that bring Jewish values, teachings, and wisdom to all students so that young men and women are not forced to choose.

Last week, in collaboration with Rabbi Yehuda Sarna of Hillel at NYU, our organization, This World: The Values Network, staged a huge event of over 1000 Jewish and non-Jewish students that had me moderating a discussion on genocide between Elie Wiesel and Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda.

In a similar manner, bring Judaism to the culture via TV shows, plays, and music that are mainstream and intended for all audiences. Some examples include the new Shlomo Carlebach-based musical ‘Soul Doctor,’ produced by Jeremy Chess, that is currently running on Broadway, the music of Matisyahu, and the TV show I hosted on TLC called ‘Shalom in the Home.’ Like the Kabbalah movement, bring Judaism and Jewish values to everybody instead of just focusing on the Jews. We are not a proselytizing faith, but that is no excuse not to make the Jewish people a light to all nations.

2. Fix the broken and boring Synagogue service.

The overwhelming number of Jews who still step into a Synagogue do so for three days of every year and then swear they will never come back. Sometimes I think we should ban secular Jews from High Holy Day services and shift their attendance instead to Simchas Torah and Purim. But since that’s not going to happen, let’s take the focus off of cantorial recital yodeling, which makes congregants into spectators, shift the teachings away from dry sermons, and focus instead on having services engage the heart and mind. Carlebach-style services that make people sing real spiritual melodies rather than listening to opera is the way to go. Rabbis putting out moral questions between each of the seven readings of the Torah on Saturday mornings is a means by which to influence congregants to apply the lessons of the Torah to their everyday lives, making Judaism relevant rather than aloof. And don’t forget a fantastic Kiddush with fine single malt whisky. Can’t afford it? Build less elaborate buildings and have a more elaborate cholent and sushi.

3. Make the Rabbinical and Jewish day school teaching professions fashionable again.

You basically become a Jewish day school teacher or a Rabbi after your fifth rejection from Harvard Business School. There is no social clout in it and you get paid in cholent beans. How do we change all this? By having AIPAC, Federation, Birthright, and other prestigious Jewish organizations respect Rabbis at their major conventions rather than having them say the blessing on the bread. How do we ensure they can make more money? Take the ten smartest Jewish hedge fund managers and have them create a fund open only to Jewish activists where there money will be managed by the smartest people in the world so that a teacher in cheder will have enough money to marry off his children without having to moonlight as a bar bouncer. The more money Rabbis and teachers make, without putting strains on the communal purse, and the more clout these professions enjoy, the more talent we will attract to those professions that are supposed to be inspiring our youth.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is the winner of the London Times Preacher of the Year Award and the American Jewish Press Association’s Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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Burka Avenger

Huffington Post UK  |                                           By Sara C. Nelson                                      Posted:25/07/201312:07                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
Armed with pens and books and draped in a flowing black burka, this is Pakistan’s first female superhero.
The Burka Avenger is the star of an upcoming cartoon series, which sees the teacher protagonist using martial arts skills to fight thugs seeking to close down the school where she works.
Her mission is an obvious nod to the tyranny of the Taliban and its efforts to stymie female education.
burka avenger
The Taliban is responsible for blowing up hundreds of schools in Pakistan’s northwest and for the attack on Malala Yousafzai.
Militants shot the 15-year-old in the head in 2012 for the “crime” of promoting education for girls.
“The main goals of the Burka Avenger TV series are to make people laugh, to entertain and to send out strong social messages to the youth that educate, enlighten and reinforce positive social behaviour,” states literature on the official site.
The 13 episode Urdu cartoon, which starts in August, is the brainchild of Aaron Haroon Rashid – one of Pakistan’s biggest popstars.
burka avenger
That the Burka Avenger is thus clad may well raise some eyebrows – after all it was the Taliban which forced women to wear the Muslim dress when it took control of Afghanistan in the 1990s.
Of his heroine’s attire, he told the Associated Press: “It’s not a sign of oppression. She is using the burka to hide her identity like other superheroes.
“Since she is a woman, we could have dressed her up like Catwoman or Wonder Woman, but that probably wouldn’t have worked in Pakistan.”
When she’s not fighting bad guys and saving schools, the Burka Avenger goes by the name of Jiya – and wears neither burka nor headscarf.

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funny how it was people of faith who started and operated hospitals, who were involved in setting up schools, cared for the poor and marginalised and so on …… and did so, not necessarily as “good works” but because they had compassion prompted by their faith

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June 4, 2013 · 18:18

Mass Instruction


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September 25, 2012 · 21:27



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